Got questions - edition 1

14 Sept 2010

Got questions - edition 1

A couple of questions came in, so time for answers.  Keep questions coming and I'll answer in another blog post

1.Hi. I'm a first time uke buyer and first time instrument owner. I'd really like to take this seriously but as a college student I don't want to go all in with a super expensive uke to start. I'm thinking of shooting for the $50 range. From what I've read up on Makala seems to be the best for that price. What are your opinions on the best starter ukes? Does plastic or wood make a difference (like the older vs new dolphin makala models)? Does regular or pineapple make a difference? Also, I'm a lefty. Is there any way to get uke's restrung to fit lefties? I'd hate to try and learn everything upsidedown/backwards. Thanks so much!

Wow - a few questions in that post.  The Makala is certainly a great uke for the money, and gets many many rave reviews.  It does need a bit of tweaking and set up though, so I'd buy from a reputable dealer who can assist with that.  In the price range you are talking about, there is really only the Makala and the Mahalo to consider (aside from the real rubbish).  Mahalos seem to have very variable quality control - i personally got a bad one.  I have struggled to find a bad review for the Dolphin though.

The plastic back on the newer dolphins is supposedly a cost saving feature, but from reviews I have read, it has certainly improved the sound.  It also makes the uke that little bit tougher too

Different uke shapes do offer slightly different sounds, but at this price point I suspect you wouldnt notice much difference between a standard uke shape and a pineapple - its more about cosmetics

If you are a lefty, just restring the other way - ukes generally dont have angled saddles as the scale length is so short, there is no need, so they work either way up.  You may have to widen (slightly) a nut slot but maybe not.  Again - speak to a good dealer, and they should do that for you when you tell them you want Aquilas on it (believe me, on a cheap uke, you DO want aquilas on it!)

2.How important are the strings? As a new Ukulelean (?!) I've gone for the dolphin based on you reviews, but for now decided to stick with the current strings. I've also seen coloured strings which get good reviews and sound pretty good on a mahalo!

Testing different types of strings is a long process as there are quite a few out there.  Check my blog by searching for "strings" and you will see some of my opinions.  Generally though, on cheaper ukes, like the dolphins, they will arrive with very cheap strings which are just nylon.  You can do a lot better and certainly Aquilas on a dolphin will bring it alive.  Better strings firstly, just sound better, but stay in tune better, are more accurate along the neck and just feel better.  Tough tension strings like Aquilas work very well on cheaper instruments as they drive the laminate tops much better.

As for the strings in your link, I dont know them but would wager that they are just a cheap string that is being sold for novelty factor - due to the colour. (they are also banjo uke strings so not the right strings for your Dolphin which is a soprano!)

So in answer to your main question - strings are very important.  Look at Aquila, Worth, Martin flourocarbons - they are my faves.  On the entry ukes, its hard to look beyond aquila though.


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